COTABATO CITY -- Ahead of the inauguration of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) on March 29, an analyst urged “broader understanding” of the Bangsamoro transition, saying that the “role of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) must be innovative and not simply bureaucratic.”


Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) senior policy adviser Fr. Eliseo Mercado Jr. cautioned against looking at the Bangsamoro transition as “simply the transition from the ARMM to BARMM”, which he says, is a “narrow perception.”


“I think the broader understanding of transition to capture the liberation front [MILF] is from rebellion to peace, from land of conflict to land of reconstruction,” he said.


The BARMM is the product of 22 years of peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) culminating in the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the plebiscite for the ratification of its enabling law, the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), early this year.


Mercado explained a wider perspective is critical to “have the wherewithal both in laws as well as the BTA because the understanding of the transition should define the role of the BTA, not necessarily simply the law. The role of the BTA will be demanded and shaped by that understanding of transition not only by the people from the Bangsamoro autonomous region but the understanding also of national [government].”


“It’s very crucial at the start to define the word transition—from where are we transitioning and to where? Are we transitioning from [four out of 10] poorest provinces to a prosperous region? From a land of conflict to peace? From a land of extremism to a more peaceful one? [We need to] define a wider and broader understanding of transition and perhaps the legislation that is needed and the role of the BTA that is needed to bridge that transition”, he added.


The “broader” transition, according to Mercado, should include the normalization process. The role of the BTA in normalization is still unclear, but at the very least, it can come up with policy recommendations, he said.


Mercado made his comments during the IAG and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) roundtable discussion on the BOL in Cotabato City on March 20. The roundtable is the first of a series of joint efforts between IAG and KAS to promote better understanding of the BOL and the ways and means to implement it in a meaningful, efficient and relevant way.


The 80-member BTA is the interim regional government that will exercise executive and legislative powers over the BARMM during the transition and prior to the election of the first parliament in May 2022.


During its first session on March 29 alongside the inauguration of the BARMM, the BTA convening as a parliament is expected to finalize its house rules and rules of procedure, necessary for it to begin formal deliberations on critical laws.